Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, itself a spin-off of the popular Harry Potter franchise. The film follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and gang as they work together to thwart the diabolical wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp).
Unfortunately, this movie largely falls flat due to a combination of factors. The first Fantastic Beasts wasn’t great either, but it did show quite a bit of promise. Instead of fixing the mistakes of the first film, this entry instead doubles down on them, forsaking the magic of the Wizarding World in favor of convoluted set-ups hinting at a far better third installment.
The single biggest flaw of this movie is that it needed to have more of the eponymous creatures. Unlike the Harry Potter series, the Fantastic Beasts films are not direct adaptations of novels by J.K. Rowling. Instead, they are inspired by a fictional guidebook detailing the creatures of fantasy that live in the Wizarding World. The best parts of the first film, and this film, are those that involve the creatures. Sadly, this entry only has two or three major scenes in which the creatures are truly allowed to shine.
The story is also far too busy setting up for future installments to be strong on its own. There are hints of potential here and there, but there are also many moments that are quite frustrating. Much of the movie is reliant on expositional dialogue, which is often not well-written at that. The story also feels largely unresolved, as it simply sets up for more conflict to come.
Additionally, there are a few moments in the film that are simply laughable. There is a forced romantic storyline between Scamander and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), the latter of which would have been much better used as a strong female character than a love interest. Another major female character is introduced in Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) that feels thoroughly underdeveloped and wasted.
Somehow, the movie is two hours and fourteen minutes long, but it feels like almost nothing happens. There are a few action sequences, and these are diverting enough, but most of the film is comprised of people running around looking for other people. It gets boring and slow after a bit. The movie would have been much more interesting and enjoyable had there been a more coherent plot and more interactions with the beasts.
That being said, the film isn’t all bad. With the exception of the opening scene, which is a bit rough, the visuals look pretty solid. The CGI isn’t half bad, and the production design is interesting. Eddie Redmayne is likable as the protagonist, and Dan Fogler is charming as his comedic sidekick. Jude Law is a welcome addition into the series as fan favorite Albus Dumbledore. Johnny Depp is also solid in his significantly expanded role as the villainous Grindelwald.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is very much a step down for the series. Hardcore fans may get caught up in references, but otherwise, there isn’t much to make this any more than a cash grab and a reason to give Johnny Depp another big role.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens in theaters November 16.